Unofficial Insignia – Liberty Cuffs and Diesel Boats Forever

World War II sailors sewed hidden patches under the sleeve cuffs of their dress blue jumpers. Once on leave, they unbuttoned their “liberty cuffs” and turned them over to display colorful dragons, mermaids, dolphins (for submariners), and birds (for the “airedales” who worked on Navy aircraft). The practice of liberty cuffs continued into the early 1980s, except for a short period in the early 1970s, when the Navy attempted to do away with the blue and white jumpers and replace them with jackets similar to those worn by officers. – Carol Burke, in Camp all-American, Hanoi Jane, and the High-and-Tight

Dragons are very common and easy to find, along with mermaids. My favorite design that I’ve spotted so far were these Hawaii themed patches (I lost that ebay auction).

Most notably seen in The Sand Pebbles.

Another interesting find that I came across were the insignias for Diesel Boats Forever:

During the 1950s and 1960s, the early classes of nuclear submarines suffered reliability problems, and on occasion were unable to complete their various missions. In 1969, USS Barbel (SS-580) was ordered to Japan to relieve a nuclear attack submarine that suffered such a casualty. As the crew celebrated the nuclear boat’s misfortune, they held a contest to design a pin recognizing when a diesel boat needed to take a “broke-down nuke boat’s” mission.

The winning design, submitted by former commercial artist ETR3 (SS) Leon Figuredo, showed a guppy submarine embraced by two mermaids (sea hags), along with the letters “DBF.” Holes in the scroll allowed for stars to be added for subsequent awards.

Upon arrival at Yokosuka, the design was taken to “the Thieves’ Alley” where a local craftsman made up one thousand pins, some gilt for the officers and some in natural (gray) color for the men. When the Barbels picked up their pins, they made the mistake of leaving the die with the craftsman.

A great picture of one can be found here on flickr.

Regulations and Rules – From a seamanship manual for young Royal Navy recruits in the late 1800’s.


Signal Flags – Naval fleets throughout history have used to flags to communicate and many different code systems have been created. From the manual once used by the U.S. Navy.

From a 1944 issue of Popular Science:


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